Three of the provinces hardest-hit by COVID-19 spent their second pandemic-era Good Friday either adjusting to or bracing for stricter public health measures meant to bring resurgent case counts back in check.
Three regions of Quebec, including the provincial capital, are now under a 10-day lockdown that took effect hours before the province reported the highest daily case load since late January.
On Wednesday, British Columbia imposed what they are calling a three-week long “circuit breaker” across the province hoping to “break the chain of COVID-19 transmission.”
Ontario, meanwhile, will pull what it dubs an “emergency brake” at midnight for the entire province, forcing the closure of personal services and in-person dining while imposing tighter capacity limits on both essential and non-essential businesses.
The move came in response to modelling that showed case counts could top 6,000 a day by month’s end without intervention.
Canada pre-purchased millions of doses of seven different vaccine types, and Health Canada has approved four so far for the various provincial and territorial rollouts. All the drugs are fully effective in preventing serious illness and death, though some may do more than others to stop any symptomatic illness at all (which is where the efficacy rates cited below come in).
- Also known as: Comirnaty
- Approved on: Dec. 9, 2020
- Efficacy rate: 95 per cent with both doses in patients 16 and older, and 100 per cent in 12- to 15-year-olds
- Traits: Must be stored at -70 C, requiring specialized ultracold freezers. It is a new type of mRNA-based vaccine that gives the body a sample of the virus’s DNA to teach immune systems how to fight it. Health Canada has authorized it for use in people as young as 12.
- Also known as: SpikeVax
- Approved on: Dec. 23, 2020
- Efficacy rate: 94 per cent with both doses in patients 18 and older, and 100 per cent in 12- to 17-year-olds
- Traits: Like Pfizer’s vaccine, this one is mRNA-based, but it can be stored at -20 C. It’s approved for use in Canada for ages 12 and up.
- Also known as: Vaxzevria
- Approved on: Feb. 26, 2021
- Efficacy rate: 62 per cent two weeks after the second dose
- Traits: This comes in two versions approved for Canadian use, the kind made in Europe and the same drug made by a different process in India (where it is called Covishield). The National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s latest guidance is that its okay for people 30 and older to get it if they can’t or don’t want to wait for an mRNA vaccine, but to guard against the risk of a rare blood-clotting disorder, all provinces have stopped giving first doses of AstraZeneca.
- Also known as: Janssen
- Approved on: March 5, 2021
- Efficacy rate: 66 per cent two weeks after the single dose
- Traits: Unlike the other vaccines, this one comes in a single injection. NACI says it should be offered to Canadians 30 and older, but Health Canada paused distribution of the drug for now as it investigates inspection concerns at a Maryland facility where the active ingredient was made.
How many vaccine doses do I get?
All vaccines except Johnson & Johnson’s require two doses, though even for double-dose drugs, research suggests the first shots may give fairly strong protection. This has led health agencies to focus on getting first shots to as many people as possible, then delaying boosters by up to four months. To see how many doses your province or territory has administered so far, check our vaccine tracker for the latest numbers.
While the problem in all three provinces is the same – faster-spreading variants and rising hospitalizations – the rules are all slightly different.
Quebec closed schools in the affected regions while Ontario and B.C. did not.
All three are prohibiting indoor gatherings at private residences, but Quebec is also banning outdoor gatherings at homes and cottages. Ontario and B.C. both say it’s safe to allow up to 10 people to assemble outside.
Quebec’s rules include a curfew banning people from leaving their homes between 9:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. in most regions, though the start of the curfew has been moved back to 8 p.m. in the province’s three newly locked-down cities.
Residents of Quebec City, Levis and Gatineau will also see schools close and non-essential business shut down for at least 10 days in a bid to bring soaring local case counts back under control.
Elsewhere, Quebec allows up to 250 people inside a place of worship as long as they can maintain a two metre distance from others. But the number differs for weddings and funerals, where the limit is 25 attendees.
British Columbia only allows worship outdoors, up to a maximum of 50 people, plus two more to enforce the rules. In Ontario, worship services are limited to 15 per cent capacity.
A new survey suggested Canadians navigating the complex patchwork of public health measures are likely to disregard them altogether and even ignore nearly universal calls from public health officials and politicians to skip Easter gatherings this year.
An online poll done by Leger for the Association for Canadian Studies and the University of Manitoba found more than 40 per cent of the people surveyed feel safe attending family gatherings at this point, and a quarter believe the government is overhyping the dangers of COVID-19.
Toronto mother Marcia Martins said she is scaling back her family’s usually large Easter gathering to just four households this year, noting the move feels safe since most attendees don’t work outside the home.
“These are just difficult times right now,” she said. “And I’m just glad that there’s a way that we can just keep as close to normal – or what our old normal was.”
But for some Ontario retail workers, the coming lockdown is welcome news.
“I think this will help prevent the increasing rates of the virus,” said Odessa Ordanza, a cashier at Shoppers Drug Mart in Mississauga, Ont.
The 22-year-old said “it’s still kind of scary going to work,” particularly with some people still coming into the store without masks on.
But one home-care supervisor west of Toronto has a much harsher appraisal of the government’s current approach, which allows schools to stay open and allows most retailers to operate with capacity caps rather than shutting them down entirely.
“I don’t know if it’s the right approach,” said Terri Neufeld of Mississauga, noting comparable measures have been in place locally for months. “I don’t know if we need to have a more targeted approach? What we’ve been doing (in Ontario) has really not been working.”
Many provinces opted not to report new case data on the Good Friday holiday. Those that did included Quebec, which added 1,314 new cases to its total.
It’s the third day in a row the province tallied more than 1,000 new infections, and the highest daily number since Jan. 26.
Saskatchewan reported 254 new infections on Friday, while Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw estimated there had been about 1,100 new infections over the most recent 24-hour period.
New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, meanwhile, reported nine new infections each.
Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin says the Easter weekend in his province “is looking very different” than in most other jurisdictions, but said people still need to be careful.
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